Game plan: New coach blends legacy with vision for upcoming football season
Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 17, 2023
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
It’s no easy task to replace a figure like Coach Adrian Snow, who was the face of the West Forsyth football program for 15 seasons.
However, Kevin Wallace came in after Snow resigned last November with 121 wins, and Wallace has quickly put his stamp on the program.
Wallace, 37, was previously the head coach at Northwest Guilford for the past six seasons and finished with a record of 32-34 while there. Meanwhile, Northwest Guilford was 10-3 last year, losing in the third round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs to Weddington. Northwest averaged 40 points a game last year.
All the build-up is almost over because the season is scheduled to start on Friday at Jerry Peoples Stadium against Asheville Reynolds. West Forsyth lost at Asheville Reynolds 37-0 last year, the first of four straight losses for West Forsyth, which went 4-7 overall and 3-4 in the Central Piedmont 4-A. However, West rebounded to win four out of five games, but it lost to East Forsyth in the last game of the regular season and the first round of the NCHSAA Class 4-A playoffs in what proved to be Snow’s final game as head coach.
“Everything is still something new,” Wallace said. “You know, just getting stuff done. So, it’s still the first-year things of getting acclimated to just procedures or all that stuff. And the coaches and the players do the work we expect practice-wise, off the field or on the field, when they’re at school when they go back. It’s been good. It’s all brand-new for a lot of people.”
Although Wallace hasn’t officially coached at West Forsyth, especially in a game situation, he’s not new to West Forsyth. He was the offensive coordinator at Glenn during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He initially left Glenn for the same position at West Forsyth, but he only had a short stint there, never having actually coached in a game, before he was named the head coach at Northwest Guilford.
“I was coming out there from Glenn, and then I got the head job at Northwest that summer,” Wallace said. “So, I had little familiarity. I’d been around. You know, just the type of athlete that West has brought in and the type of football player. You know, it’s a good academic school on top of it all. Then, just getting to know (Principal) Mr. (Kevin) Spainhour, and I knew (Athletic Director) Coach (Mike) Pennington from before. But Mr. Spainhour more and getting to know the administrative team, I think have really kind of sealed the deal that they really want the best football team out there.”
Wallace picked up information along the way in his six years as head coach with the Vikings as he’s starting his first year with the Titans.
“I think it was both ways. I learned a lot. A, if I ever got a job that late again, you know, what to do, what I shouldn’t do? And the kids learned because we turned around the next year, and we had a decent year. We started off really hot,” Wallace said. “Just that first year at Northwest, there’s a lot of things that I thought needed to be changed to have a successful program. And it took years.
“It took a couple years to really get it going and get people on board, especially when you’re coming in that late; you’re basically retaining all the staff. Some of them have been there for a long time. Some of them are really good coaches. But some just didn’t believe in the philosophy that I believed in. So, that’s the hardest thing, is to sell, you know, your philosophy to the coaches first so they can go preach to the players.”
The Titans are definitely Wallace’s program, but they still have Snow’s legacy.
“Coach Snow’s been there, and he’s been good, like I’ve been able to call him when I need him and stuff like that, run things by him, and how to navigate some of the “waters” that you have to get through,” Wallace said. “He’s been great with that. From the get-go, he said, ‘If you need me, just call me. Don’t hesitate. I’ll be out. I can tell you what I did or what I thought was best. So, it’s that. I’m not disrespecting the past. You’ve got to build on from the past.’
“And I said from Day 1, ‘I know you know Coach Snow, but I’m not Coach Snow. And there’s things I expect different than he did. And there’s things we’re going to do different than he did.’ And it’s not that it’s right or wrong. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
Many of the same coaches that Snow had with the Titans had been with him for 10 years or more. Many of those coaches were retained by Wallace. However, Jonathan McIntosh, who was the defensive coordinator, is now the head coach at Central Davidson. Sean Joyce, who was Snow’s offensive coordinator and is no longer with the team, is now an assistant cross-country coach with Coach Nathan Newsome of the Titans.
Wallace is now the offensive coordinator, in addition to being the head coach, and Will Billingsley, who was at East Forsyth, is now the defensive coordinator at West Forsyth.
“I’m calling the plays, so once we get our offensive system in, hopefully with some of the guys on staff in a year or two, hopefully, we can either have them take more of a role in the offense once they fully understand it,” Wallace said. “But right now, I’m going to be the offensive coordinator and call plays.”
Last year, West Forsyth was outscored 343-250. Bert Rice, listed at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, was the quarterback for much of the season and will be the quarterback this season, but it was pretty much running back Caman Chaplin, 5-10, 180 pounds, who carried the load for the offense. Chaplin, now a senior, finished with 1,637 yards rushing on 248 carries to go along with 17 touchdowns.
Opposing defenses were quick to stack the box against the Titans’ offense.
“At quarterback, we changed some techniques, some fundamental stuff that I felt has helped (Rice) throw the ball better,” Wallace said. “With the scheme we go into, we try and get a lot of pre-snap reads and stuff like that, which helps the ball come out quicker, which I think we’ve seen with Bert a little bit.
“And then, on some of the touches on accuracy on passes right now. And that’s been something we’ve been harping with him, to be more consistent with the accuracy. He’s not going to be gun-shy. He’s seen everything. So, we hope just to develop it, get good critiques from the fundamentals and be able to get the ball out faster. The O-line is what they’ve been known for, and we’ve got a great offensive line.
“The running back position is kind of our staple right now. We’ve got three to four guys that can really run the ball. And we’ve got some receivers on the outside that I think are going to be good. A lot of them are very green. But we’ve got some playmakers out there that that can touch the ball and get after it and are lighting up the box. That’s really going to help us.”
And the defense must complement the offense, according to Wallace.
“The offense is going to be very attacking and very explosive-based, and our defense is going to be the same way,” he said. “He (Billingsley) has a very aggressive-style defense, which is what we were looking for. I think we have a really good secondary. Our strength is our linebackers, and I think our secondary is pretty dang good, also. Our D-line has a lot of potential. We’re going to be pretty deep there. It’s just we’re going to be pretty young.”
West Forsyth Varsity Football
8/18 – AC Reynolds
8/25 – at Oak Grove
9/1 – at Weddington
9/15 – Mt. Tabor
9/22 – at Parkland
9/29 – Glenn
10/6 – Reagan
10/13 – at Davie
10/20 – at RJ Reynolds
10/27 – East Forsyth